Regular readers may recall that from time to time I’ve leveled some harsh judgments about chiropractic colleges that seem more interested in tuition dollars and board examinations than producing gradates who can practice successfully. So along comes Life University, which has assembled an impressive curriculum entitled Principles of Practice and Business Management, designed to do just that. Moreover, imagine my delight when I was invited to participate in this program by delivering an 8-hour presentation to a group of students this past Saturday.
My host Dr. Brian Flannery was wonderful. The classroom venue was first rate. The weather outdoors was overcast and conducive to great attendance. And while the handful of students who actually showed up fought over the most distant seats in the back, they were generally polite, participative and from time to time, even appeared engaged.
But I learned something Saturday that caught me by surprise.
Apparently, there’s good reason why so many chiropractic colleges do little more than pay lip service to equipping students with key business skills. Turns out, passing the board examinations and living almost exclusively in left-brain land is seen as a much more pressing concern than preparing the groundwork for actual practice. In other words, providing business skills and strategies for patient communications, with board examinations hanging in the balance, is a low priority. Thus, in large part, my presentation was designed to answer questions few students were even asking, much less thinking about! Too soon. Not ready.
Those who have recently graduated and now in their second or third year of practice might agree that waiting a month or two before graduation to attend to the business side of things makes the looming specter of practice unnecessarily scary and stressful. However, it doesn’t change the fact that many students simply aren’t prepared to attend to this crucial matter any sooner.
It reminds me of a conversation I had with a famous management consultant back in 1997. I had observed to him that it was tragic that so many new graduates flounder and fail. At the very time they need a consultant, they can’t afford one. “They have to struggle, before they’re coachable,” he revealed. “And the ones who don’t make it are the ones who probably wouldn’t have made it even with coaching.”
At the time, I remember thinking that his assessment was rather cold; even cruel. After my own experience this past Saturday, I’m more inclined to appreciate the practical realities of his wisdom.
Does that mean chiropractic colleges are off the hook? I still think they have the obligation to warn incoming students who occupy the amiable and analytical side of the personality quadrant that they have a challenge that can hinder their professional career. And while not a disqualifier, it’s a handicap that will require their attention should they ever wish to open their own practice.
A pipe dream? Perhaps. But first chiropractic colleges would need enough endowment money so they won’t be tempted to accept anyone producing carbon dioxide with an adequate credit score. (Perhaps in your estate planning you could include your alma matter or some other chiropractic college that reflects your values.)
They’ve asked me back for next quarter. I’m flattered. However, in light of the chess game, internet surfing, napping, hangover recovery, private conversations and studying for exams that many used the day for, I may need to rethink my presentation.